E-Filing At the BCIS

Posted on: May 21st, 2013
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PLEASE NOTE THAT SOME OF THIS INFORMATION IS OUTDATED. It is preserved here for reference purposes.

In 2003, history was made as the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services began accepting electronically certain immigration-related applications. The agency kicked off the new program by accepting I-765 employment authorization applications and I-90 green card replacement requests.

Siskind Susser Haas & Devine filed one of the first applications under the new system, and we can report that it went smoothly and was relatively easy to navigate. There are some aspects to the system we don’t like, including the following:

  • no acceptance of credit cards (just electronic transfers from checking and savings accounts)
  • no integration with case management software
  • no online scheduling of appointments for fingerprints and photographs
  • no electronic filing of supporting documents (they are submitted by mail after getting an e-filing receipt)

We captured the screens for each of the steps in the system and they are linked below:

Page 1, Page 2, Page 3, Page 4, Page 5, Page 6, Page 7

What do I need to e-file?

To file immigration applications electronically, you need to have an Internet connection, a web browser (at least Netscape 4.7 or Internet Explore 5.0), and Adobe Acrobat reader software.  You will also need a checking or savings account in a US bank and a printer.

Can I file electronically if I live outside the US?

No. Only people residing in the US may file electronically.

What applications can be filed electronically?

Right now the BCIS will accept I-765 employment authorization document applications and I-90 green card replacement applications. According to the BCIS, these two forms were selected for starters because they account for 30% of all BCIS applications and because they usually are not accompanied by very many supporting documents.

Note that not all I-765 applications may be submitted electronically.  Applicants who fall under the following categories are not able to file electronically:

Category 274a.12(a)

(1) Lawful Permanent Resident
(2) Legalization Temporary Resident
(9) K-3 Nonimmigrant Spouse of U.S. Citizen or K-4 Dependent
(12) Temporary Protected Status (TPS) – Angola, Burundi, El Salvador, Liberia, Montserrat, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan
(14) LIFE Legalization
(15) V-1, 2 or 3 Nonimmigrants

Category 274a.12(c)

(1) Dependent of A-1 or A-2 Foreign Government Officials
(4) Dependent of G-1, G-3 or G-4 Nonimmigrants
(7) NATO Dependent
(10) NACARA Section 203 Applicants who are eligible to apply for NACARA relief with INS
(13) Not in use.
(14) Deferred Action
(15) Not in use.
(19) Temporary Treatment Benefits – Angola, Burundi, El Salvador, Liberia, Montserrat, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan
(21) S Nonimmigrant
(23) Irish Peace Process
(24) LIFE Legalization

How will supporting documents be submitted?

Supporting documents will be submitted the old-fashioned way – by mail. One day they too may be submitted electronically, but for now, you will be prompted to check a box stating whether there are or are not supporting documents. When a receipt is generated at the end of the application process, you will take the receipt, place it on top of the supporting documents and mail them to the address on the receipt. The process will work in a similar fashion to responses to Requests for Evidence.

How will application fees be accepted?

For now, you must pay using a savings or checking account in an American bank. You must have the bank’s routing number and the account number handy as well as the bank’s address and the account holder’s information. Credit card and debit card payments are not being accepted.

How will I submit fingerprints, photographs and signatures?

Well, despite claims to have gone totally electronic, here again old fashioned systems still play a role. After a receipt is generated, an applicant will be instructed to call the BCIS’ national customer service telephone number to schedule an appointment at an Application Support Center. The applicant will then go to the ASC and provide fingerprints, a photograph and sign the application documents. That information will be electronically transmitted to the BCIS and then the entire application package will be sent to the BCIS office issuing the document.

Applicants who filed Form I-90 should bring two copies of their application and their Confirmation Receipt notice to their appointment.  The ASC will keep the copy of the application.

Applicants who filed Form I-765 need only bring a copy of their Confirmation Receipt notice.

At the ASC, the BCIS will confirm the applicant’s identity and electronically capture a photograph, fingerprints, and a signature.  The BCIS will use these biometrics to produce the Employment Authorization Document or Permanent Resident Card, if the application is approved.

Also note that a handful of ASCs will not work with e-filing applicants. Charleston applicants should go to Charlotte. Jackson, MS applicants should go to Memphis. New Orleans should go to Houston. St. Croix, Virgin Islands applicants should go to St. Thomas. And Yakima, Washington applicants should go to Seattle.

While e-filing work with my immigration case management software system?

No. For now, it is necessary to enter the data a second time in the e-form. The BCIS has indicated that in the future they plan to make it possible to file from a case management system.

Will e-filing speed up processing on my case?

No (well not directly). The American Immigration Lawyers Association is reporting that BCIS offices plan on considering e-filed cases along with paper-filed cases in the order received. On the other hand, the BCIS believes that if many people use the system, overall processing times will improve since workloads will decrease.

Will I get a receipt right away?

Yes. A receipt is generated immediately upon filing. This is an obvious benefit of the new program and that alone will make it worthwhile since the BCIS has a terrible history of losing applications in the mail room (or shredding initial applications as was the case recently in the California Service Center). Once the electronic receipt is issued, a paper I-797 with the same receipt number will be mailed to the applicant.

Where can I find the form to e-file?

You can get to the form from the e-file information page at http://www.immigration.gov/graphics/formsfee/forms/eFiling.htm.

 What are the next forms to be added to e-filing? When will they be added?

The BCIS is already working on six other forms that should be ready

for e-filing in the future.

  • Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker;
  • Form I-131, Application for Travel Document;
  • Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker;
  • Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status;
  • Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status;
  • Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing

The BCIS believes that these forms will be ready for e-filing sometime this autumn or at least by the end of the year.